Von Igelfeld is quite pleased with his role as a visiting scholar at Cambridge, even if his English colleagues can be difficult to comprehend. They frequently speak in metaphors and make peculiar assumptions, saying such odd things as "I take it your journey went well," when that is not the case at all. But von Igelfeld settles in the best he can, and is soon deeply embroiled in some shady political scheming at the university. After returning to the comfort of his perfectly rational Germany, von Igelfeld is invited to Colombia for a special fellowship. But while there, he gets caught up in some decidedly unscupulous behavior.
In this book, Professor Dr von Igelfeld spends most of his time outside of Germany, first at a Cambridge college as a Visiting Professor, then in Bogotá, Colombia, as the recipient of an honor from the Colombian Academy of Letters. I had just finished a serious book set in Cambridge, so a light-hearted story in the same setting was a welcome change of pace. By the end of the Colombian story, I felt like I was reading a Monty Python sketch -- perhaps McCall Smith is a fan? This was the perfect read for a busier than usual week -- diverting, not too demanding intellectually, and a pleasant way to unwind at the end of a couple of very long days.
Overall, this is a series that has grown on me and I am really glad that I did not let the tepid experience of Portuguese Irregular Verbs deter me from continuing with the series.
Shortly after von Igelfeld’s return to Germany, he is next invited to Bogota, Columbia. It is here the author unfortunately jumps the shark, ruining what had been a perfectly delightful commentary on academia and on the English culture versus that of the Germans. A string of absurd and improbable events in South America goes beyond satire, and in my opinion, devolves into silliness.
Since the book clearly has two sections that could in truth be divided quite easily, I would say read it for the sojourn to Cambridge, and skip the misadventures in South America.
Upon his return home, von Ingelfeld finds proof that his nemesis has been using his office during his absence, which annoys him tremendously. The bigger news is that someone has actually requested his masterwork, a rare occurrence, which leads von Ingelfeld on a mysterious trip to Bogota.
A slim book, and perhaps I should have read the previous Portuguese Irregular Verbs first, but that didn't stop this from being a giggle. The professor tries to be dignified, but he enjoys his very prim academic humor and is being eaten away by his professional feud.
So I haven't been super in love with this series so far, but have been appreciating that they're pretty light and almost mindless, which is a nice distraction from everything else going on in the world right now as well as a change of pace from the generally more dark/serious works I tend to read.
This is the first one in the series that I picked up as an audiobook rather than printed text, and that was very much a mistake in this case. The audiobook narrator's voice was rather stentorious, which I guess was considered a good fit for the academic background of the main character. However, he was also rather monotone and did not do anything to present this as the humorous book it is meant to be. It came across as really rather dull instead.
In this book, we see far less of von Igelfeld's close professor friends as he is too busy travelling for most of it. We do get to see more of the institute's librarian than in previous books, but frankly the character isn't terribly interesting. The parts in Colombia in particular really start to go too far into the absurd in my humble opinion.
I will move on to the next title in this series only because it is the last one and I've come this far, so I want to finish the series. Still, I'm really not that big of a fan of it and much prefer some of McCall Smith's other works more.